Miami-Dade County

Two new parks chiefs named in Miami-Dade, one after the other

Jack Kardys, the outgoing director of Miami-Dade’s Parks department.
Jack Kardys, the outgoing director of Miami-Dade’s Parks department. Miami Herald file photo

Miami-Dade County is set to have three parks chiefs in a span of six months as retiring director Jack Kardys gets replaced by a deputy who has already signed up to retire in July.

The succession plan laid out in a Nov. 9 memo by Mayor Carlos Gimenez called for Kardys to be replaced by George Navarette, currently deputy parks director for planning and development. Navarette has his own retirement date in July. Gimenez’s memo also promotes Maria Nardi, an assistant parks director, to deputy director and names her as Navarette’s successor to run the department.

Gimenez’s successor-to-a-successor announcement illustrates some of the complications that can come from Florida’s deferred-pension system, which encourages government employees to set fixed retirement dates years in advance. Known as DROP — which stands for Deferred Retirement Option Program — it allows participants to begin collecting pension payments while still on a government payroll, in exchange for setting a mandatory retirement date within five years.

Miami-Dade uses Florida’s retirement system for employee pensions, and both Kardys and Navarette are in DROP. Both also set their retirement dates for 2017 — Kardys on Jan. 31, and Navarette on July 31.

While pension payments are calculated on employees’ highest-paid years, promotions made during the DROP period don’t count since the payouts are fixed once the participant enters the system. So any raise Navarette receives for becoming director — a county spokesman said Thursday that Gimenez hasn’t made pay decisions for the new posts — wouldn’t have an impact on his pension benefits.

Gimenez described Navarette’s appointment as a helpful transition between Kardys, who took over Parks in 2007, and Nardi, who became an assistant director in 2015 after working in executive positions at the department since 2004. Navarette joined parks in 2011 after decades in Miami-Dade government, including top posts in Transit and running the Office of Capital Improvements.

“This will allow for an orderly succession that will ensure leadership stability,” Gimenez wrote, “and maintain the department’s strategic momentum.”

Nardi, a Harvard-trained landscape architect, has been a key player in the county’s push to create the Underline, a 10-mile “linear park” running under the county’s elevated Metrorail system from downtown to the Dadeland South station.